Questions loom as WVU opens practice
MORGANTOWN – Former Parkersburg South and West Liberty offensive lineman Ron Crook understood the task ahead of him when he elected to leave Stanford and return to his Mountain State roots to become the offensive line coach at West Virginia University.
“Playing at Parkersburg South, it was a dream of mine to play here (WVU),” Crook said during a recent visit home to speak to the Parkersburg Rotary Club.
“I never felt like I had to the talent to accomplish that, but I think I can help from a coaching standpoint.”
That help will have to be immediate as the Mountaineers will have to replace 60 percent of an offensive front that helped the old gold and blue average 39.5 points and 502.0 total yards of offense per game.
“Everything has come along very well from what we’ve seen out of those guys in the summer,” Crook said following Saturday’s practice. “They (the offensive line) look bigger, they look stronger and they look more fit.
“They move well, and they’ve got more quickness to them and more agility, so our strength staff did a great job with them all summer. The guys did a great job buying into what we’ve been talking to them about and teaching them to do. The whole team has had a great summer.”
The question is, however, will that be enough to replace three starters-Joe Madsen, Josh Jenkins and Jeff Braun-who combined to play in 140 games and make 123 starts.
“The offense does not change,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “The thing that changes is the makeup of the team. The pieces change and the focus of the offense might change.”
Among those pieces will be returning starters Quinton Spain and Curtis Feigt as well as Pat Eger, Marquis Lucas, Tyler Orlosky, Nick Kindler, Mark Glowinski and Russell Haughton-James.
Of the group Eger has the most playing experience, having appeared in 28 games-starting 19-while Spain and Kindler have played in 26. The big question mark surrounds the center slot, however.
Eger appears to be locked in a three-way battle for the position with Orlosky and redshirt freshman Tony Matteo while Lucas and Glowinski came out of the spring atop the depth chart at left and right guard, respectively.
“I don’t know if I would say he (Lucas) was the biggest change, but it’s definitely clear that it’s very important to him right now,” Crook added. “You can tell with his approach, mentally and physically, and with the gains he’s made over the summer.”
With only three days of camp behind them, however, don’t look for Crook, or any of the coaches, to announce who will be in the starting lineup when WVU plays host to William and Mary at noon on Saturday, Aug. 31.
“He (Lucas) has been working with them (the first team). But, again, that will remain very fluent throughout the preseason camp.”
Words echoed by every coach on Saturday.
“That’s the best thing about what’s going on right now,” receivers coach Lonnie Galloway said. “Everybody is competing for a position. No one has a position. We have guys that go first or second, but they know they have to show up everyday and compete.”
That competition will continue when the Mountaineers return to the practice field at 5 p.m. on Monday.